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Finding profit in the practical

LAS VEGAS - When it comes to accessories, some companies have found hits by selling sturdy gear for commuters in addition to the flashy accoutrements they produce for obsessed racers.

Two years ago, helmet maker Bell Sports Inc. started selling models aimed at urban cyclists that lacked the bright graphics and swept-back tail that many racers prefer.

"The customer doesn't want to look like they're in the Tour de France," said Don Palermini, a senior brand manager.

Initially Bell's Metro model, for around $100, came with a warm liner and rain cover for people wanting to ride to work year-round. Sales were modest, but a bigger seller has been the $48 Citi that lacks the foul-weather gear, since many casual riders stay home in the rain and cold, he said.

Bell was among the many cycling-accessory companies at this year's Interbike trade show emphasizing products designed to help people use their bikes in place of cars for short trips. Another was Cateye, an Osaka, Japan, company that is one of the largest makers of the ubiquitous "blinky" flashing lights riders use to be seen at night.

Traditionally, the market was split between models costing less than $30 that used AA- or AAA-sized batteries, and lights that gave off more powerful beams but required heavy, rechargeable batteries attached to the bike's frame. This year, Cateye will sell middle-ground rechargeable versions for $100 and $140 that contain their own batteries.

Pedro's USA, a Wilmington company best known for chain lubricants, this year was one of many bike makers linking riding to environmentalism in its catalog.

Manager Christopher Zigmont also showed off the company's new $20 reusable grocery store-size shopping bag made from traditional No. 2 plastic, the same grade as milk bottles.

Another Massachusetts company, the Kryptonite unit in Canton of Ingersoll-Rand Co., said sales of its well-known U-shape bike locks rose 30 percent for the first three quarters of this year compared to 2006, an increase spokeswoman Donna Tocci attributes mainly to a rise in people biking to work.

"Commuters absolutely are having a significant impact on the percentages," she said.

Ross Kerber can be reached at kerber@globe.com.

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